dantebasco
Actor Dante Basco gives a speech in Houston Hall for Philipino American History Month Credit: Aaron Campbell , Aaron Campbell

All people have at least one piece of art or entertainment they unconditionally adore — the piece of art or entertainment that, regardless of their gender, turns them into a full-fledged shrieking fangirl.

And for fans of anime, poetry, movies and plays, an event last night in Houston Hall hosted by the Penn Philippine Association offered the perfect opportunity to “fangirl” during a talk with poet, voice actor, actor, writer and producer Dante Basco.

As his long list of identifiers indicates, Dante is a notably versatile and accomplished artist. Throughout his 25-year-long career, he has acted in Steven Spielberg’s “Hook”, has voiced Zuko, Prince of the Fire Nation in the Nickelodeon series “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and has been a guest spoken word poet at Da Poetry Lounge in Los Angeles.

In the hour-long talk and subsequent Q&A, Basco humbly and humorously discussed his expansive career path from a street performer outside of San Francisco to a discovered actor in L.A. to his now prominent role in the entertainment industry.

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While he gained his fan base and success through talent and hard work, his charisma and authenticity were equally on display at last night’s event. His fans loved him, but the feeling was obviously mutual as he joked and interacted with the star-struck audience.

In addition to the huge enthusiasm and fanfare, the event had serious undercurrents about what it means to be an Asian American in an industry with limited or skewed minority representation. In addition to straddling boundaries of various art forms, Basco, who is Filipino-American, has also had to straddle boundaries of racial identity, often passing as Latino or as other types of Asian.

“If I had to wait for a Filipino role,” Basco said, “I would be screwed.” Though he acknowledges the underrepresentation of Asians and specifically Filipinos in the media, Basco is proactive in creating more roles for Asian Americans in his current productions and projects.

He takes great joy in representing his culture on television. “People come up to me and say you were the first cool Asian guy I saw on television,” Basco said. “I’m grateful to be that doorway.”

As for the future, insatiable Dante Basco fans can look forward to more work by the multi-talented artist. “My career spans over 25 years,” he said, “but there are more stories to tell.”

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